Cactus’ are pretty much useless, except for when you want to trip mad balls.
Snobbish, college-grad Jamie (Michael Cera) travels all the way to Chile for one reason, and for one reason only: To find a famed cactus that contains hallucinogenic material. It’s definitely something that Jamie feels excited for, and can’t wait to tell everybody about it. However, at a party one night, he may have told the wrong person when he meets a fellow-American named Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann). Crystal Fairy is a bit of a free-spirit who goes her own way and doesn’t care too much about the little things; which also just so happens to be the exact opposite of who Jamie is and he lets her know about it, and somewhere amid the conversation, accidentally informs and somewhat invites her to come along on this trip with him and a few Chilean friends of his. But Jamie doesn’t think much about it, all up until he actually gets a call from her saying that she’s ready-to-go. Many times on this trip, Jamie considers dropping her off somewhere along the way and practically abandoning her, but his friends think that’s not the cool thing to do. So, Crystal Fairy stays with these guys as they look for this cactus where she preaches, meditates, puts rocks in their drinks and gets them to open-up just a tad bit; all of which Jamie doesn’t like and thus why he butts heads with her the most.
You can just tell when a movie was clearly made all because the cast and crew had some time, money and ideas on their hands. Nothing wrong with that really, because I feel like any and all directors would love to be at that point in their career where they can just “do” a movie, all for craps and giggles. However, the only problem may be is that it almost feels a bit too much like they just don’t care and are doing it just to do it (looking at you, Sandler).
But, like I said before, making a movie just because, isn’t always a bad thing, as you can tell that there’s clearly a lot of talent and effort involved, so why not? And there’s the great aspect behind Crystal Fairy: It may be a minor movie, but it somehow works wonders without even seeming like it’s trying to. Writer/director/co-star Sebastián Silva clearly just came-up with this movie on the top of his head and it actually makes this movie feel like a realistic-look at a bunch of people that just want to go out onto the beach, drink some cactus fluid and trip insanely. Of course that premise alone could make for a pretty boring movie, but there’s something naturalistic to this whole movie to where it feels like you are actually watching these guys go out on a road-trip, only to be screwed over by the utter-presence of a female.
And while it’s clear that Silva definitely didn’t think this whole film through to where it’s perfectly-written down to the last character-arch, the situations and discussions he gives his character’s to deal with, all feel fully-realized and are ripe with a lot of interesting ideas. Though most of that ideas don’t come together as perfectly in the abrupt ending, for the most part, the movie’s funny without being over-bearing; dramatic without being ham-handed; and slightly compelling, without trying to throw too many turns and twists at us.
In other words, it’s just like real life. Except this time, real life that takes place in Chile, where all young people want to do is get a wild trip.
Speaking of these young people, they are all pretty fine, even though the two highlights in this cast are clearly both Michael Cera and Gaby Hoffmann who both show that those cute, adorable child roles they had all of those years back, are all but long ways back in the distance. We’re always so used to seeing Cera playing the awkward, twitchy and nervous guy who never finishes his sentences and doesn’t quite know how to talk to girls, let alone anyone for that matter, but here, he’s definitely a bit changed-up in terms of what who his character is. Jamie, for lack of a better word, is a dick – he’s the type of guy you probably met in high-school that offended you one day and you never talked to him again, and your life was never changed because of it because he’s so unpleasant to be around. He always picks people apart, says dumb things to make himself seem “cool” and just does not know how to be a nice guy, which could have been terribly annoying to watch, but Cera’s good with it. He shows us that there may be some attractive-features to this guy and his personality, but so far, from what we see, there isn’t many. But Cera’s good with this role and shows that he is a bit more versatile than what his previous, ten or twelve roles may have you think.
But the real stand-out here is Gaby Hoffmann who has been making quite a splash as of late showing up in these adult roles, where you’ll have to rub your eyes maybe once or twice and think, “Is that really the little girl from Field of Dreams? And even Uncle Buck? Whaaaaaat?” Especially here, considering she gets full-on naked quite a few times in this movie, but isn’t done in a gratuitous or manipulative way for her to show us that she’s an adult now, with “things”; it’s done to give us the impression that Crystal Fairy truly is everything she claims to be, if not more. Now, to be honest, I know plenty of people out there in my life that are exactly like this gal, and while I always find myself somehow drawn to them, they always seem to get on my nerves when push comes to love, man. That’s why, when I first met Crystal Fairy here, I couldn’t help but side with everything Jamie was saying: She looked, dressed and acted weird, as if she was all doing it for the attention of others. However, as time went on, I began to see that Jamie was in fact “the weird one”, and really liked how open Crystal Fairy was as a person, and how she didn’t really hide herself from these people she just met. Hoffmann is fun to watch on-screen, not because she gets nakey quite an awful lot of times, but because she brings a lot of energy to the film, which is why when she’s not around, you can feel the movie sort of deflate. But when she does show up, she more than makes it a time to remember, and that’s all I’d like to say about that.
While some of you may think I’m being slight and a bit vague, there isn’t much more to this movie than that. It’s basically just a bunch of people, on the road, who do have a destination and run into some fun, wacky situations along that way. Most of them are entertaining, and others are quite inspired, but that’s pretty much it. It won’t change your life, it won’t have you remembering much after watching it, nor will it ever crack anybody’s “Top 10 Lists” (I actually don’t think it did), but it’s a nice piece of film that goes to show you that you don’t need a lot of big bucks to make a simple, but entertaining movie. All you need is a little time, talent and energy to want to make something.
Consensus: May be a slight feature altogether, but Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus is an alright watch, if solely to see what else it is that Gaby Hoffmann and Michael Cera can do, now that they’re all grown-up, primed and ready for whatever Hollywood throws at them.
7 / 10 = Rental!!